There was a thrilling finish to the first Hampton Downs 101 with Supercars driver David Russell snatching the win from South Auckland’s Graeme Smyth in the closing laps. Smyth looked set for the most unlikely of wins but Russell, who started the race in pole position after winning yesterday’s Top Ten Shootout, kept his cool after Smyth ran a touch wide.
Russell’s co-driver in the Lamborghini R-EX, Roger Lago was a relieved man after the race after a rollercoaster afternoon for the JBS Australian team.
“It was a sensational effort from our team and from David,” he said. “We got a drive through penalty that I didn’t agree with and still we end up winning the race. It’s fantastic. I nearly got fenced before the drive through so to come back and win like that was pretty special. The safety car near the end helped us and maybe someone was looking down on us this weekend.”
Smyth, a fabricator from South Auckland and his co-driver Peter Edwards, who owns the Ferrari 458 GTS and began his motorsport career doing track days with Maranello Motorsport in Melbourne, started from 20th on the grid but steadily made their way through the field.
The pair opted for an early pitstop strategy and as several of the more fancied drivers struggled they slipped under the radar to take the lead on lap 74. They held a lead of over 20 seconds at that stage but a safety car just 11 laps from the end proved to be a game changer. Smyth’s lead of 14 seconds was cut to nothing and Russell piled on the pressure to force a mistake and sneak down the inside of Smyth’s Ferrari on lap 97.
The scene for a great afternoon’s racing was set up with a pre-race grid walk which saw thousands of fans soak up the atmosphere on the finishing straight. That was followed by a stirring rendition of the national anthem by actor Temuera Morrison and a haka for the 24 drivers lined up on the start/finish line.
When the racing got underway Michael Caruso in the Nissan Nismo GTR GT3 opened up an early lead on the field. Matthew Simmons, the former Australia Post courier driver who got his break in motor racing by winning the Nissan Playstation GT Academy in 2015, took over from Caruso after the first compulsory pit stop 30 minutes into the race. Simmons and the Nismo were looking in good shape until the young Australian went into the back of a tail-ender and the resultant steering damage forced them out of the race.
The lead changed hands a number of times in the mid-section of the race with the pairings of Nathan Morcom and Grant Denyer, John Martin and Duvashen Padayachee and Peter Hackett and Dominic Storey, taking turns at the head of the field. Morcom led the race before he pitted on lap 74 and his co-driver Denyer came out in second just behind the unlikely leaders of Edwards and Smyth.
Smyth looked good to hold on for what would have been a fairytale win but Russell proved his class in a car that was one of the quickest all weekend. On the last lap Smyth’s day went from bad to worse when he was denied second place after a collision with Nathan Morcom, the championship leader, turned him around. John Martin and Duvashen Padayachee ended up finishing second with Grant Denyer and Nathan Morcom in third, pending a review.
The on-track action in the other categories on Sunday included four races for the half-size, full speed Aussie Racing Cars where Australia’s Charlotte Poynting headed off New Zealand’s Alyssa Clapperton in the CAMS Women’s Trans-Tasman Challenge. Race honours in the four races of the Aussie Racing Cars final round went to Kel Treseder twice, Craig Woods and Poynting.
A fan-favourite, the Central Muscle Cars also took to the new Hampton international track for four races. John Midgley took two wins in his Falcon while Shane Wigston and Gary McKelvie took one victory each in a HQ Holden and a Camaro respectively. With an impressive array of machinery, the GTRNZ category turned on a great show of racing with Glenn Smith in his Porsche taking all four race wins from Nick Chester in his ex-V8 Supercar.
Art Dept October 30, 2016
Posted In: News
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